Too much Truth?

I got home from the doctor yesterday with Luke and was greeted at the front door by my sweet girl.  She was busy playing with her grandparents but she dropped everything to hear everything.  She had a litany of questions waiting for me as I stepped through the front door, Luke curled onto my shoulder.

“What did the doctor do? Did he put a stick down his throat? Did he take a blood pleasure? Did he listen to his cough? Did he take his temperature in his ear?  What was his temperature? Did Luke cry?  Did he get a shot? Did he get a finger prick? Did he get a sticker? Did you get ME a sticker?  Does he have to take medicine? Can I taste his medicine?”

Unfortunately for her, I was totally shaken by the doctor’s visit.  Having expected a simple chest, throat and ear check, I was smacked with having to pin my little guy down to the table as the doctor took three vials of blood and then watching as they strapped a baggy over his little Pee Pee in the hopes of gathering some urine to test for an infection.

Apparently, a high fever with NO other symptoms is NOT a good thing.

Luke cried until he was gasping for air.  Grabbing for me.  Pleading with me with his big eyes for my arms to sweep him up from the table.  I caressed his belly.  Rubbed his head.  Assured him it was almost over.  But I was breaking inside.

Hannah could see I was hurting.  She took my hand and led me into the family room and said, “Mommy, tell me, what happened?”

And although I was stressed out, not in the mood to talk, I didn’t hesitate.  I told her. I told her that Luke screamed for 20 minutes as they wrapped a tourniquet around his tiny arm, stuck a needle in and drew blood.  That he had a bag attached to his “pee pee” so that we could collect some pee for the doctor to look at.  That I was sad.  That I had a hard time seeing my children hurt.

Some think I’m too honest with her. That she doesn’t need to know all of my thoughts. That she’s too young to comprehend adult emotions.  That I might make her fearful of things she shouldn’t be worrying about.  But I choose to tell her. Right or wrong, it’s my choice.

I also tell her that if she doesn’t hold my hand in the parking lot, she could get hit by a car and get killed.

I tell her that there are bad people who steal things. Who take kids.

I let her watch Annie and explained what orphans are.

I tell her that it’s not just old people who die.

I tell her that I’ve had friends even as a “big person” who aren’t nice to me.  Who have hurt my feelings. Some of my friends aren’t actually my friends anymore.

I have told her that spiders creep me out. I don’t like raw cauliflower. I used to be afraid of going blind.

All of these things I’ve told her.  Things that may instill fears or dislikes in her but things that let her KNOW me.  Feel comfortable with me. Know that I’m a person who has been hurt, has fears and emotions.  That there are scary things in the world.  That she SHOULD be scared sometimes. That there are things I’M scared of too.

Right or wrong. This is something I’ve chosen to do.  And yes, now she is afraid of bees. Jumps at lightning.  Asks millions of questions about sickness and dying.  Wonders if a child she doesn’t see with parents is an orphan. But I’m ok with that. Because I can be there for her to calm her fears, to try to answer her questions.  But I may not be able to be there for her when she’s thirteen and is hit with reality.  Reality that I never clued her into.  It’s a fine line, I know. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve crossed it but usually, I trust my instincts.

On the other hand, there are some areas I’ve more carefully tippy toed around. I am NOT the mom who uses all of the anatomically correct terms for body parts.  Hannah still has a Pee Pee that the peepee comes out of.  Her brother also has a Pee Pee of a different shape.  Mommy has boobies. A baby grows in a mommy’s Belly (not her uterus as someone I know told her three year old).  Babies are removed from their mommy’s bellies, they do not come out of their Pee Pee (which in this mama’s case, is true).  I also know of someone who told her 5 year old how babies are made.  Not me.  I told Hannah that I have NO IDEA how the baby starts growing in there… it just starts as a tiny seed sometime in your 20’s or 30’s and your doctor tells you when it happens.  And then I change the subject.  Fast.

It’s getting harder.  Answering the questions.  Helping her with her curiosities.  I find myself struggling at times.  Why we chose our house when the one next door is so much bigger.  Why some people have beach houses and we don’t. Why some people are pudgy and others are so skinny (“People come in all shapes and sizes” doesn’t seem to cut it with her).  How come some kids look like their daddy when the mommy is the one with the baby in her belly?  Why do all of her favorite cartoons have Christmas specials but not Chanukah specials? Why was Boxing even invented if hitting is so awful?  Why do I only drive with one hand sometimes if I KNOW it’s safer with two?

My attempts to blow off or not know the answers doesn’t work with this girl.  “But you still haven’t told me WHY mommy!” or “But why do you THINK mommy?” is usually what comes back at me.  Which is why so often, I go with the truth.  Hannah still gives me a hard time about lying when she was two about the stork delivering the baby to a mommy’s doorstep.  I realized when she was four years old  and talking about the stork at preschool that this story was leaking out so I fessed up and told her the “seed” story.  I’m sure I’ll be fessing up on that one soon too…

I hope I haven’t caused any true damage to Hannah. I hope she appreciates the honesty where I use it. And that she won’t hold my little fibs against me for too long…

Where do you draw the line in honesty with your little kids?

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36 Comments

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36 responses to “Too much Truth?

  1. I love answering just enough. My five year old doesn’t care how the baby gets there. (thank goodness, because I’m not going there) I do the same thing about the parking lot. Yes, cars could kill you dear. And yes, there are some people who want bad things. Which is why she does karate.
    We read about slavery, talk about death. I try not to lie to her. Try.
    I hope Luke is okay. The most awful night of my life was when it took 3 attempts to catheterize my girl to get a urine sample. She was 15 mo and just looked to me for help as I held her down while someone jabbed her where I hoped no one would ever hurt her. It still makes me cry. My heart is with you.

    • Thanks Kate. Luke is better – thank god. Talk about a situation where I didn’t need to hear the WHOLE list of possibilities from the doctor of what could be wrong. I can’t believe the nightmare you endured with your daughter. Ugh. I’m so sorry.
      I wish Hannah didn’t care so much how the baby gets there. I know one day soon it’s all going to become clear that what I’ve told her does NOT make sense.

      • You’ll find a good way to answer. It is kind of like a seed, and like seeds some grow and some don’t. I don’t think your story is too far off. I know I’m not ready to go into all the details. Although I keep hearing about good books that help.
        And I’m so glad Luke is better!

  2. My son is just beginning to ask hard questions. I haven’t decided yet how honest I will be with him at this age (2 years). But I know I’ll have to figure it out soon.

    Each family is different. Do what works best for you and your family. That’s the best we can do for our children.

    • You’re right. Every family and every child is different in what they can handle and what they wish to discuss. It’s a learning process… just like every other part of parenting!

  3. HaHA! You would TOTALLY hate me. I label my kid’s body parts. Emmy knows and points to her vagina and can also point to Andrew’s penis. I will probably tell her exactly how babies are made when she is around 5. I am completely comfortable with talking about sex and body parts but other things? Like death and dying? I am not nearly as willing to broach those subjects. I will but not with a confident air.

    I hope your little Luke is okay. A urinary tract infection? How awful. ) :

    • I don’t hate you at all! MANY of my friends use all of the correct words with their kids. I’m not sure why I decided not to… just came more naturally to me I guess!
      Luke is better, thank you. Doc decided after too many tests to decide it was just a virus. A lot of worrying, for nothing.

  4. I think all kids are different, and you have to answer them based on their specific intelligence level and capability. My oldest daughter, much like yours, is a very grown up little girl, a five year old with an adult soul. If I tried to give her a half truth or a dumbed down answer, she would call me on it and not settle until I told her the whole truth. Much like her mother, knowledge makes her feel safe. It’s the unknown that scares her, not the reality of the situation. My younger daughter, however, is not the same, and half truths and Disney realities and a bit of fluff is much more appropriate for her maturity level. You know her better than anyone else, I have complete faith you are doing the right thing.

    • yes, I like how you put this Kisha. It’s the unknown that Hannah is uncomfortable with as well. Which is why she just wants me to “make something up mommy” if I tell her I don’t know the answer! She just has to have something that makes sense in her brain before she can move forward.
      Sounds like our girls would get along perfectly!

  5. I am pretty direct and honest with my kids, which is easier now because they range from 11-19. But I’ve always tried to answer what they’ve asked – but only what they’ve asked and being sensitive to whether they’re squirming or not. I don’t believe in pushing info they don’t want. I have worked hard to not show embarrassment about anything they ask me. I don’t want them to be embarrassed and I don’t want to shut down the lines of communication. It seems to be working so far, my kids still talk to me a lot about things I never talked to my parents about.

    At the stage you’re talking about though my favorite answer was, “Why do you think?” That way they get to start thinking and solving problems for themselves as well as practicing stating what they believe and defending it. I get off the hook; they get to feel smart. Win-win.

    • Thank you for visiting Robin! I’m so happy to hear that the direct and honest approach seems to have worked for you and your kids are a bit older than mine. I so hope that my kids will feel comfortable talking to me about anything as they grow and I firmly believe this is the right way to start.
      I’ve tried the “Why do you think?” approach and Hannah sometimes answers but usually says, “NO mommy, I want YOU to tell ME!”

  6. This is hard, and I don’t think there’s any single right answer (duh). I think it’s about reading your own child and then knowing what feels right and true for you personally. You want her to be educated and aware of the risks in the world without being overly fearful (at least I do). I do use the proper terms for things (all that Planned Parenthood training) and did get the question from Grace at five! So I had to go there … not easy. We were in a public bathroom, she asked me a very specific question very loudly, and a woman came out of the stall and gave me a thumbs up and smile and said, “good luck with that!” It was hilarious.
    Anyway, I hope Luke heals up fast and I am so sorry for the health scares – those are truly the worst.
    Sending you love.
    xo

    • I love that she posed the question in public! No pressure there!
      Luke is better… thank you. It was not a fun few days but I’m so relieved it wasn’t as bad as it could have been!

  7. I think the biggest mistake we make when it comes to parenting is letting our children believe that we are invincible, that we don’t get scared and anxious, that we don’t have all the answers.

    I am a firm believer in answering as age appropriately as possible. And, doing it honestly. ‘Cause lying will come back in bite you in the butt.

    Hope Luke is on the mend and so are you. Doctor’s visits can be awfully scary when they have to do the works, aren’t they? Sending you some good ju-ju to finish out the week…

    • I agree Maria. I don’t want my kids to think that we as parents don’t understand how difficult life can be. I want them to know I went through a lot of it, and that I get it. That their feelings of anxiety or nervousness is normal. And I love having answers for her. Answers that turn into real conversations. It makes me feel so much closer to her and that I’m helping her to understand the world. Even if I don’t sometimes!
      Luke is definitely better… a big scare for a little sickness! Thank you! xo

  8. I meant and, not in. Guess it’s way too early!

  9. Nicki

    You are doing a great job, both with Hannah’s questions and with Luke. I will say that I am that mother that always had anatomically correct names. I tried the “baby grows in the belly” until my 2 y/o told me I couldn’t have hot tea as it would burn the babies.

    We all have to look at what we feel comfortable with and know that we know best what our children will be able to handle.

    • Thanks Nicki. Surprisingly Hannah hasn’t made the connection between the belly where the baby is and the belly where the food goes! Thank god… because then I’ll have some ‘splainin to do!

  10. Someone once said to me to always tell them the truth, just tailor how much truth for when they are ready. So when they ask where babies come from, be honest, but don’t necessarily give them the whole picture. And I think that’s key. Remembering what they are emotionally capable of digesting and managing. Too much might be too much and they won’t know how to categorize it or deal with it. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a version of the truth that you can share. And I think the biggest thing is that all children are different. So the amount of truth that one can handle is very different than what another can handle. I’m big on truth, I use all the right words, like Amber commented, and I try hard to aways provide some answers. Sometimes the answer is quite honestly, “I don’t know.” And that’s okay too!

    Great post Becca, love discussing this kind of stuff. I always learn from you, and from everyone who comments. I’ll be back later to read more.

    • Sometimes I worry that Hannah SEEMS to be comprehending and dealing just fine with the honesty I give her but that really she’s not “categorizing” it all correctly and it later will come back as scary or mislabeled. Does that make sense? I just hope she’ll have enough trust in me to talk to me if she worries down the road. All I can do now, is do what FEELS right to me. Use my gut… it’s worked so far!
      And “I don’t know” doesn’t work with Hannah unfortunately. She tells me to make up an answer if I don’t know!

      Thank you for your thoughtful (as usual) comment!! xo

  11. Sometimes I wonder if I’m too honest with my kids as well. My son is 12 and my daughter is 5 and I think my husband talk to them the same way we talk to adults (for the most part). They hear/ask/know a lot about life, death, sadness, body parts (yes, we use penis and vagina), and everything else. I think they mature faster because of it. I know I did. But, they are not in the dark with a false sense of reality, either. Like you, I do what comes naturally and what I think is best for my kids and for us as a family. I want them to trust me and be able to ask me anything, knowing they will get an honest answer.

    Great post, Becca! I hope Luke is feeling better really soon!

  12. Oh, wow. I’m not there yet. I really want to be honest with Maya without telling her too much. My goal is to answer just what she asks and not go too far with my answer. We’ll see how that goes. . .

    • Thanks for coming by Carrie! Haven’t seen you in a while! It’s not easy, but you’ll do what just feels right for you when maya starts asking you these hard questions!

  13. Hi Becca – lucky me, I still have a couple of years before I decide on what I should do with the hard questions, although like you, I’m leaning towards providing as much truth as possible or necessary. This is something that was a struggle for me growing up because where I’m from, you don’t really ask questions, but told what you should or should not know. And if you ask something the adult is not comfortable with answering, you usually get the “why do you need to know these things?” or the easy brush off, “stop asking so many questions” even if you’d only asked one or two. They’re not being mean – just the product of a very conservative culture. I don’t wish that upon my little girl and hope to share with her as much as I can, or am capable of as I first have to get over my own experiences and unlearn the behaviors that I have unwittingly inherited.

    Great, thought-provoking post as usual. Hope Luke has bounced back from the scared.

    • Reading about how verbal your little girl is already, I’m not sure you have a couple years left Justine! I understand the cultural differences you grew up with. I do think that an open communication relationship is helpful in creating a comfortable environment to learn in, even if it IS difficult and doesn’t come naturally. Thank you as usual for your thoughtful comment!

  14. I completely believe that absolute truth is always better than lies. Age-appropriate of course. In the end, we all must do what is best for us and what works for our families.

    Xo

  15. I am the truthful mom. To the extreme. I prepare my children for everything. They know proper anatomical names, we’ve even looked at anatomy books together and they know about babies. I have done this so that they are armed with the RIGHT information instead of playground rumors and so they know that they can come to me with questions ANYTIME. If I don’t know the answer I will help them find it. They also know I am human, that I experience emotion too and that I make mistakes. I don’t think you’ve crossed any lines (even if you think maybe I have ;)!!

    • Great point Shawna. I hadn’t really thought about my being truthful and upfront with my kids was a good way to protect them from rumors they most likely will hear out of my company.
      And I definitely don’t think you’ve crossed any lines! Not at all! We’re all comfortable with a different level of “truthfulness”. I often wonder why I wasn’t comfortable from the start with using the correct terms for body parts… strange.

  16. I don’t have advice for you, since we’re not there yet. Just wanted to say that I appreciate your perspective immensely and am happy to hear all approaches to the honesty conundrum as I have only a faint idea of how much I’ll reveal.

  17. ck

    I’m with you. I’m very honest with my older daughter because she’s full of questions too, AND she never forgets what I say. It is starting to get hard, though, because she’s asking things most of her friends seem oblivious of, and I hate to think of her as the child who spills it to everyone else. But in the end, when it’s just me and her, I’m honest. Like you. And just like you, I’m also there to field the responses.

  18. My son is just getting to the stage of asking ‘why’ about everything. I answer him as honestly as I can – when I know the answers! 😉

    The other day he pointed to testicles and said “what’s this?” For a second I debated between testicles and scrotum, but settled on testicles. His response was “Oh. Penis and testicles”

    People tell me I talk to him like he’s an adult, but he seems to understand what I am saying most of the time. I’d rather him not have to unlearn the lies, half-truths, and fibs.

    You have to do what you believe is right for your family and your children.

  19. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. My Hannah is 18 now, but she asked SO many questions when she was little!

    Since I was a single mom, I tended to talk to her like a mini-adult, not in a sing song dance I would hear my co-workers talk to their kids – in fact, one day I was on the phone with Hannah, she’s always been my best sous chef, and we were discussing what to make for dinner.

    I hung up the phone and the woman said “sounds like you and your daughter are going to have a great dinner – how old is she?” When I replied five she didn’t believe me!

    Now she’s in Germany for two more weeks – I could not be more proud of the independent woman she has become!

  20. Hi Becca,

    I, too, am a BIG believer in honesty. I like what I call “age-appropriate” honesty, but honesty is always first. More importantly, I hope your little Luke is well. I’ve been through countless blood tests with my Little Miss, as well as other horrible tests, and I know exactly how excruciating the whole process is for you and him. Take care of both of you,

    Christie

  21. So glad that Luke is doing better today. I hope that you’re all getting the rest you need to truly recover.

    My guys are still too young for me to have dealt with this issue yet, but I found your post and all of these responses fascinating and really enlightening. Thanks!

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